A new Gallup poll found that 70 percent of Americans claim to “hate their jobs”. I know firsthand that many people are unhappy in their current situations, but I still found that number to be shocking. That kind of negative energy bottled up in some cubicle somewhere isn’t good for any of us. So let’s go; we have work to do.
Let’s be clear about what really happened. Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report is a 68-page feast for someone wanting to get a clearer view of the American workplace than just by watching reruns of The Office. It’s packed full of new data and it does lead with the proposition that 70 percent of Americans are disengaged with their jobs to varying degrees.
This word “disengaged” is different from “hate” but “hate” made its way to the news outlets because it grabs headlines and strikes a chord with people. The truth is much more important – to be disengaged means that people have no connection to their work, and as Gallup so clearly outlined in its report, this disengagement is “strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization’s financial success, including productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction.” In other words this is more than an unhappy waiter ignoring your table. People who ‘hate” their jobs affect every square inch of our economy.
And at 70 percent, chances are some reading this story are unhappy or disengaged with their work or career. I have some direction. Follow me.
Make yourself more self-aware. You can use this skill to scrutinize not only your career but also your life. Sharpen this tool for your long term tool box. Sit down in a quiet space—no reading emails or texts—and do some writing. List the things you like and dislike about your current job. Do the same for your last job and the one before that. Now, look over your answers. Are there similarities across these positions that stand out? Are you finding yourself in the same situation time after time? If so take note!
Make a difference. People often feel disconnected because they feel they do not make a difference. Do you? Even a small difference can have a big impact company-wide. If you feel that nothing you do makes a difference, then start there. What difference would you want to make? You don’t need to save the world. What you do should, however, give your work meaning.
Find the source of your unhappiness. What environmental aspects surrounding your job are making you unhappy? Long hours? A cranky supervisor? A long commute? Unhappy co-workers? The list is endless because workplaces are constantly evolving imperfect ecosystems.
If your boss is the problem, tread carefully. There is rarely any “winning” when pitted against your boss and the effort isn’t worth it. Telling off your boss may get you fired. Even trying to rationally discuss your feelings may result in being labeled “uncooperative.” Above all, don’t vent about the boss to others in the office. Trash talk ALWAYS gets around and with the internet may be broadcast EVERYWHERE, thus dooming your chance to relocate. Take the high road. Be professional even when treated poorly. If you find yourself in a situation where you are being harassed or discriminated against, sexually or otherwise, contact an attorney immediately for counsel. These situations can be awful and getting out safely with your professional record intact is your immediate goal.
Stop complaining. After a quick round of venting to your friends about your job, empower yourself and do not let others dictate your happiness. Excessive complaining about anything will take your journey to happiness down a road to nowhere.
Take on more work. This step may seem counterintuitive, but taking on new challenges, either from your company or outside your office, may be the jump start your career needs. Volunteer somewhere, take a course in something, or ask for an interesting assignment from your boss. Sound difficult when you’re already battling the workplace blues? You bet! Yet this strategy may start a domino effect leading to self-improvement and a pay off down the road.
These last two steps can set up your next move. By stopping your complaints and taking on more work, you are a) breaking the cycle and b) beginning to give your work meaning—even if only a little. Most people, even the most successful among us, have had jobs they disliked. Those who go on to success always find something valuable wherever they are working, whether it’s access to training, networking opportunities, working with talented people, or even being able to eat in a great cafeteria. Uncover what is good about your job and then cultivate your need for more of that element by seeking out like minded people and positive experiences.
Planning your move. In Charlene Giannetti’s The Part Time Solution: The New Strategy for Managing Your Career While Managing Motherhood, she advised working mothers to evaluate a part time position by using the three S’s— Salary, Satisfaction and Status. This method also works with a full time job. If a position is satisfying and pays well but lacks an impressive title it might be worth a look. If it only pays well and would neither be satisfying nor esteemed, then probably not. This is a good thumbnail plan for deciding when it’s time to fly from the nest.
Before you begin that job search, determine what went wrong this time around. Did you go into your current job with blinders on, not seeing the red flags along the way? Was your on-the-job behavior partly responsible for things going south? What will you do differently this time around?
Finally, do the single most important thing to change your work situation: believe in yourself. You have more options than you may recognize to grow and find your own happy career path, whether you stay where you are or move on. Love yourself and you will end up loving your job, too.
Jason Veduccio, founder of In1Concepts, works with companies on marketing, technology, hiring, and workplace issues. He welcomes your questions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.